Oh Nicholas Sparks, your filmography says you’re responsible for 9 movies, and yet somehow after watching all of them, I still feel like I’ve only seen 1.
“Best of Me” is yet another Nicholas Sparks novel to make it to the big screen, this time about a man and women who are forced to reconcile with their past, after a mentor of theirs passes away and brings them together through his last will and testament. And since Mr. Sparks is involved you can bet there will be elements of love, loss, romance, and some sort of heart breaking twist towards the end that will neither make sense or inform the story in any real way. Yes, it’s obvious that Sparks has a formula by this point, and unfortunately in this case I just don’t see the numbers quite adding up.
Man it’s hard to sit through these kinds of movies. I mean if I had to say anything good about it I guess the acting at points wasn’t awful. James Marsden especially seemed to do a great job at bringing a bit of truth to his role, and for the most part avoided feeling like the soft focus, melodramatic, type of performances that usually pervade these movies. Unfortunately everything around him is dragging him down to it’s over sentimental level. I mean, look, if you’re heart still swoons for this type of cookie cutter stuff, you’re likely going to enjoy this syrupy sweet mess, otherwise if you’re like me, you’ll likely come away shaking your head at how far things have fallen since “The Notebook” came out 10 years ago
I mean, The Notebook wasn’t even the first Sparks movie, his novels for “Message in a Bottle” and “Walk to Remember” came out before that. And up until that point I thought the stories were sweet if not a bit simple. But since then it just seems that each movie becomes an even more of a direct parody of the one before it. Here’s a fun exercise, do a google search for Nicholas Sparks movies, and then look at the posters, Of the 9, 5 of them are literally the same pose of a man holding a woman’s face in his hands as he goes in for a kiss, and the other four are a woman leaning back into a man’s arms. And that’s pretty much Sparks in a nutshell, playing to romantic tropes so fully, that it either melts your heart or melts your brain from the repetitive unrealistic nonsense. You can probably guess which side I land on. I mean I don’t have a problem with love or romance, I’m actually a huge fan, but this simplified idea of fate and destiny does nothing to speak to what true love and romance really looks like. I tried to get on board with it, I really did, for the first 30 minutes I thought ok, Marsden is good, characters are ok, maybe we will just have a sweet simple love story with a cute message and all will be ok. And then, as if right on cue, every stupid, cheesy, ridiculous, thing that you think will happen in this story starts happening. And as those dominoes start falling, the worst part is, there are no surprises! The movie tries to play it’s final card with this triumphant grin and say, “bet you didn’t see that one coming” and you shake your head saying, “yeah, I actually did, for probably the last hour, glad to see you finally got there, now can I go home?” Nicholas Sparks movies are the ultimate paint by number, sure you can watch the colors hit the page, but you already knew what the picture looked like before you even started.
At the end of the day, “Best of Me” is a Nicholas Sparks movie like all the others. If you buy into the romance and sweetness you’ll likely have another teary eyed experience. But if you’re anything like me you’ll find the repetitive nature and eye rolling smaltz bringing out the worst in you instead of the best. I give it a D